Google’s mission statement in 1998 was, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. I’ve been all about utilizing Google as soon as I touched down. It’s a remarkable tool for anyone especially an image such to a tattoo artist. I had a moment of clarity a few nights ago while Goggling images for a Jesus portrait that will be going on the neck of a good friend of mine.
“Had we had this shit in prison the work coming out of there would have been ten times more phenomenal,” I said.
The art coming out of Colorado’s DOC’s would put most local galleries and tattoo artists to shame. Simply put, if you suck your motor or art supplies were going to get taken from you and given to someone who is better. You had to be creative and able to work of simple ideas with very limited references. I tattooed at least eight to ten whole body suits, cumulatively, with very limited outside visual resources. So that meant a whole lot of freehand demonic faces, sculls, lettering, etc. Forget about printing some, first page on Google, tired-ass tribal that your favorite movie star is sporting on some equally lame action flick. Tribal? There was no why in hell I was going to risk losing my motor and ink doing a tribal! What tribes are you supposed to be from anyway? Oh, no you’re getting something drawn on you with a medium tip Bic pen. You can glance at it in the mirror and we can switch it up a bit, but that’s pretty much what you’re getting. It’s going to be dope and you won’t see it on anyone else. Okay, you want a fine chick tattooed on you? Maybe turn her into a clown to represent your cheating wife? Bring me the newest issue of FHM, Buttman, Maxim, or Club magazine. I’ll pull one out of there with a bakers sheet from the chow hall and freehand to rest. We were on it.
I see now that Google is killing creativity in tattoo artists. Tired ass images are getting redone over and over again with no significant changes made. It is my responsibility as an artist to not participate in this reverse creativity. It is incredibly lazy and disrespectful to the client to permanently mark them with an image that is being worn by a 50 others in the same 70 mile radius.
Last week, I believe it was Monday; an older German woman came in asking to have this butterfly tattooed on her upper arm. I explained to her that I have tattooed this same butterfly at least five times this year, and one of them being on an ex-girlfriend. I explained to her that it was on the first page of results listed if either “butterfly”, “butterfly tattoo” or even “tribal tattoo” where typed into the search field. That meant that across the country thousands of people are walking around with this same tattoo. I was confident that this would be more than enough reason for her to let me draw her up something original….Nope, she still wanted it. I could tell she didn’t believe me for some reason, as if I just didn’t feel like working that morning. Alright, I know that the customer is always supposed to be right, but I had to give it one more shot to stop her from making this mistake. I proceeded to explain to her how with the movement of her arm and its muscle structure the image she brought in would appear to be distorted unless is was being looked at when she was standing still. Apparently, I was now boring her. Alright lady, I tried. I stenciled the damn thing up the way it was. She went to go smoke before we got started; I took this opportunity to sketch something original up for her anyway. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t budge. After I set-up and sat her down to get started I showed her what I had drawn.
Surprise, surprise, she liked it and wanted the new one instead. Jesus, pulling teeth!
I was happy enough with this small victory but it was soon trumped. I hadn’t even finished the outline when a young lady came in requesting a price quote for a butterfly tattoo on her chest… Guess what was printed on the paper she handed me? It wasn’t even Noon yet, my point had proven itself. The German lady was very apologetic towards me the remainder of her tattoo and was very happy with the finished piece; she even tipped me equal to the total cost of the tattoo. My second client didn’t require so much energy, I just sketched something and we ran with it.
I’ve repeated this story a couple of times since it happened to try to dissuade clients from certain selections but they both were insistent. Oh well, the highest quality of reproduction that I’m capable of is what they got.
Unfortunately it is not a requisite for tattoo artists to even be able to draw. Because of Google and programs like Photoshop, there are plenty of people making a living, a good living at that, simply printing, tracing and sticking tattoos. Where is the love for art at? The motivation can only be money in my eyes in this type of tattooist. It’s a damn shame.
If I can’t draw it, I don’t believe I should be tattooing it. I’m also in a stage in my career that if I’m not the best artist in the shop for the client to receive whatever style of tattoo he or she is looking for, I will refer them to a another artist. I respect the art enough to not be motivated by a quick buck.
Google is defiantly an accessible and useful tool to me throughout my day, just as its founders intended it to be. But it will never define what it is that I create.